intraspective: ([Iris] judging princess)
[personal profile] intraspective
It had taken her ages to fly across the greater part of a continent, and then over a piece of the ocean, in the dead of winter. Ino never wanted to repeat that journey, but it had given her plenty of time to think. Getting into her emails without being noticed was still a… well, she'd managed. But it had been a challenge. Ino was a born hacker of minds, not of machines.

It had been worth it though, when she'd found the first piece of the puzzle. Her phone bill was higher than it had been in years. At first, she'd thought it was due to her calls to Fandom, but while that made a bit of a difference, the bigger one was… Zack's account was in use.

She'd lost two days to that revelation, what it had to mean, and the rage and guilt and horror that it had inspired in her. What had kept her in one place had been less the rage and more the twin emotions of stark betrayal and incredulous joy. Neither had been conductive to stealth, so she hadn't tried. She'd taken her time.

If Zack's account was in use, if Zack was alive… then she'd been lied to for years. It sent her straight back into the empty, ugly spaces of herself where she could do anything, the empty, broken places she'd retreated into after losing him the first time around.

It took two days for her to shake that off, to pick herself up, to be an adult. She had to know the truth. She had to go home.

Now, she was home.

Midgar was home, in all of its dirty, green-clouded sky glory. It was riveting with electric lights that crackled through the infrastructure. There were a million, a hundred million ways and places to hide in Midgar. Ino loved her home. It was far different from the home she’d grown up in but it was hers, now, and even though anger boiled through her veins just being able to skulk through the streets of home made her feel better.

Not better enough to forgive Tseng, of course, not entirely, but better enough that she stealthed off for a shower—in some rundown hotel in the slums of Sector 4—and when she emerged from the room, her hair was squeaky-clean and loose for the first time in nearly a month. It should have brushed the floor by now, especially as it was weighed down by being wet, but Ino had spent a great deal of time and chakra to make her hair do exactly what she wanted when she wanted. It wasn’t particularly noticeable, though her hair was always noticeable anyway, but her chakra was curling the edges up from the ground, tucking them away and keeping it clean. Despite being wet, her hair had a certain bounce to it, thanks to her chakra. It never touched the floor.

She was wearing her uniform and her blue eyes were ice cold. When the receptionist wasn’t looking, Ino dropped her key off and left, unnoticed, in a swirl of hair, and the softest puff of smoke.

By the time she reached the ShinRa Building, her hair was dry and true night was edging over the city, which only made everything brighter and darker at the same time. Getting into the building was easy. She was a Turk. Getting into it without Tseng or any of her coworkers noticing was harder, but not impossible. Especially since, when she brushed her mind out for their locations, most of them weren’t even around. Irritation spiked, but she smoothed it away.

Like all Turks, Ino knew a great number of places where she could hide out of sight of the cameras and listening devices, and do some of her own listening. She picked a spot down on the twenty-third floor, made certain none of the devices or cameras had been shifted, and then, wrapped in an illusion that she was just one of the row of potted plants, Ino went looking for confirmation to what she already suspected, the reason why she’d been exiled in Icicle.

Professional courtesy meant she rarely delved into her coworker’s minds. But Ino had been stuck in Icicle for months and then had spent a few weeks flying on a stick over the greater part of a continent and then an ocean. Zack was (maybe) alive and no one had told her. For years. She was all out of professional courtesy.

What she found was what she expected, though it still left her feeling splintered.

Still hiding, still wrapped in her illusion, Ino took refuge in the stairwell, and let it go. She wasn't the kind to smoke, still hated anything running through her body other than blood and sugar, and this wasn't like years ago, where she'd just wanted the pain to stop.

She was older and stronger and so very tired. Ino sat on the stairs between floors thirty and thirty one, her hair spread out around her, her elbows resting on her knees as she leaned forward, and she thought.

Silly toddled along her shoulder, cheeping at her. Ino kissed his fuzzy little head and thought.

It was tempting, so tempting, to barge in on Tseng, get the drop on him, even slit his throat with her Crystal Cross.

But while she was grieving and hurt and uncertain of what to do, there was still the fact that, she was a Turk, and she was thinking. She didn't know why Tseng had done what he'd done, why he'd lied in the first place.

She was a Turk, though, and so was he. He'd done the job.

Ino closed her eyes, and waited for him to come to her. It was better that way, than going to him. Now that she'd dropped the illusion, he'd know she was in the building shortly, if he didn't already.

Think, she told herself. He trained you. He loves you. He loves all of the Turks. Why would he do this?

It was a fragile, ephemeral conclusion that she came to, but it was the only one that made sense:

I think he was trying to protect us. Or maybe even just me. But from what, and why?

[For the one she's waiting for, please.]
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Yamanaka Ino

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